Thomas writes another letter to his now dead son. He’s planning to meet with Oskar in an hour to dig up his son’s grave.
After the first note to Grandma, Thomas writes a second asking if she wants to see him. She holds a sign in her window that says, “Don’t go away.” She responds to his next note with a sign saying that she doesn’t want to see him. Thomas throws an apple at her window. Because the window is open, it goes into her apartment, and the doorman sends him up to retrieve the apple. Grandma tells him he’s only allowed in the guest room.
When Thomas returns to America not long after his son’s death, he writes “to try to live” on his paperwork at passport control. He goes through customs not declaring anything. When a guard comments that he has too much luggage to not have anything to declare, Thomas opens his suitcase to reveal the letters to his son.
Thomas first heard about 9/11 while writing a letter to his son from the Dresden train station. One day, in the list of casualties, he sees the name “Thomas Schell,” as if he himself had died. Thomas learns that he has a grandson.
Thomas finds a payphone and calls Grandma. When she answers, he presses the numbers corresponding to the word “hello,” but she doesn’t understand. He presses numbers over and over again. The next time Thomas calls Grandma from the payphone, Oskar answers the phone. Thomas hangs up. He takes a taxi to Grandma’s building, where he learns she’s reverted to using her maiden name.
Thomas moves into the guest room. Eventually, Grandma begins to visit him. She tells him that she can forgive him for leaving but not for returning. Thomas asks her to pose for a sculpture, and she agrees. He goes to an art store and writes his name on all the tester sheets.